By Michele Robert Poche

“Volunteers don’t get

paid … not because they’re worthless, but because they’re priceless.”

– Sherry Anderson

With so many kids addicted to electronic games, good old-fashioned hobbies like painting, journaling and musicianship are slowly disappearing.  It’s a great time to get back to basics.  Why not introduce volunteering to your children? Volunteerism is enriching, versatile, selfless and constructive. No one ever walked away from it thinking, “Well, that was an hour wasted.”

But where can you start?

Consider your children’s ages and interests. Advance planning will help ensure a positive volunteering experience for everyone. Here are a few volunteering suggestions:

1. Visit a Nursing Home. Many elderly residents don’t get a lot of visitors. They’re looking for a friendly face with whom they can spend time. Children always bring immediate smiles. Young children – and older kids, too – can assist with simple tasks like tying their shoes or reading to the elderly residents.

2. Play Secret Santa. Know someone in your community who is struggling with financial or health concerns? Surprise them with a special gift. It could be a Christmas tree, a household need or money. Just be sure to give anonymously. Your children will learn that truly giving is not about getting credit or being thanked.

3. Adopt a Family. Many religious and charitable organizations coordinate these opportunities. Adopt a family with children and have your kids assist in selecting gifts of clothes, toys and books.

4. Donate to a Food Bank. Team up with your children to pack a food box. Invite friends to join you in collecting. Have your kids help load everything and bring them with you to make the donation.

5. Feed the Homeless. Every community shelter needs help at mealtime and especially during the holidays. Work a shift with your older children at a local shelter. Encourage them to greet every patron with a big smile and friendly conversation.

6. Be a Friend to the Animals. Bring your child with you to volunteer at an animal shelter. Filling food bowls, walking dogs or helping at a fundraising event are all activities children will enjoy. The furry “thank you” they’ll receive is sure to have them smiling all the way home.

7. Support the Troops. Many military personnel are away during the holidays and would be grateful for a special message from home. Have your child create a card and write a message, draw a picture or enclose something to send to someone in the active service. In addition to honoring their sacrifice and commitment, you’ll warm a heart and maybe even find a new pen pal. ν

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